Irish Water direct debit payments may be refundable

Disgruntled Irish Water customers may have a way of getting their money back — depending on how and when they paid their bill.

Irish Water direct debit payments may be refundable

Water charges are widely expected to be suspended for the foreseeable future. And given the uncertainty over whether those who have not paid will be pursued over outstanding bills, questions are now being asked as to what refund, if any, will be granted to those who have paid their dues to date.

However, a little-known banking rule can provide a way for some Irish Water customers who paid their bills to retrieve their money — provided they paid by direct debit and made the payment within the last eight weeks.

A spokesperson for AIB said operational reasons precluded the bank from revealing how many customers have availed of the loophole, but highlighted the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland’s (BPFI) advice on direct debit refunds.

The BPFI states that under the Single European Payments Area (SEPA) Direct Debit Core Scheme Rules and SEPA Regulation 260-2012, consumers can request a refund for any direct debit within eight weeks from the date on which the direct debit was debited from their account.

The refund request must be made to the customer’s bank.

“Within the eight-week period, their bank must refund on a ‘no-questions asked’ basis,” the BPFI advises.

Bank of Ireland said it does not comment “in relation to customer transactions”.

A spokesperson for Irish Water declined to reveal how many of the utility’s customers have availed of this rule to date, and would not say how many of its customers pay bills via direct debit.

“No final policy change resulting from current political talks has been conveyed to Irish Water,” it said.

“When we are informed by government of any policy decisions that affect Irish Water or water charges we will assess the implications of those decisions for our customers, our operations and for our staff.

“Irish Water does not provide breakdowns of methods used by customers to pay their bills,” it said.

While the number of those who have paid their water charges is not known, Environment Minister Alan Kelly this week told the Dáil that he believed it was nearly seven out of 10 customers.

“Irish Water reported to me that during the general election the payment rate actually increased and while not all of the data were collected, a payment rate of just under 70% was likely,” Mr Kelly said.

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